The Life and Times of Henry Clarke of Jamaica, 1828-1907

The Life and Times of Henry Clarke of Jamaica, 1828-1907

The Life and Times of Henry Clarke of Jamaica, 1828-1907

The Life and Times of Henry Clarke of Jamaica, 1828-1907

Synopsis

When the Reverend Henry Clarke died in 1907 his obituary described him as an Englishman. Yet he had lived in England for only the first 19 years of his life; he spent the next 60 years in Jamaica, teaching and preaching in the remote western part of the island, and living mainly in Savanna-la-Mar. Henry Clarke was no obscure country cleric; he was a politician, a businessman, an enthusiastic though unsuccessful inventor, an uxorious husband and the father of eleven children, and he left behind an extraordinary body of writing, including the six-volume diary on which this biography is based. His life spans the years between the ending of slavery and the twentieth-century history of Jamaica. An outsider by colour, nationality and profession, he grew to love his adopted country and strove to improve the lot of the Jamaican people. Yet the diaries, for all their detail, give only passing reference to the world at large. They are much more concerned with the personal details of the activities, passions and problems of Henry Clarke himself.

Excerpt

SAVANNA-LA-MAR was a poor, dusty town which served as the regional capital for the south-west of the island but which showed in its crumbling and peeling façades the material decay which characterised the whole area. the charms of its natural setting, perched on the rim of a magnificent bay and hemmed on to the coastal strip by wild and beautiful mountains, soon faded. Socially, it proved a miserable place for the young Englishman who found himself mixing with disgruntled ex-slave-owners, farmers and property-owners who cared little for the local black population but bemoaned their own fall from material grace.

Henry Clarke was soon convinced that slavery was responsible for the manifold social problems he saw around him. Wherever slavery existed, he asserted, 'it was impossible that there could be, not only spiritual life, but any family life-or any sense of morality or justice'. This was to prove a recurring theme in Henry's writing and outlook throughout his life in Jamaica. He was not alone in blaming slavery for the ills of free Jamaica, but

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